Bringing Your Workers Back to the Office? 4 Tips for Establishing a Hybrid Workplace

Jul 14, 2021

In a recent PwC poll of over 100 executives and 1200 office workers, 87% of respondents said the office was critical to team collaboration and healthy company culture. This sentiment has made returning to in-person work a top priority for many workplaces. That said, only 60% of American workers are ready to return to full-time, in office work, and 30% of those polled would prefer not to return to the office at all. All of this discussion makes how to return and in what capacity more difficult decisions for many organizations.

There’s no question that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we view work and productivity. The forced lockdown proved that a work-from-home model could be productive and effective if given the right leadership and tools to do so. And with a large number of American employees hoping for the option to continue remote work, many organizations are embracing the “hybrid workforce” model.

A hybrid workplace blends the relative “best of both worlds” by supporting both remote and in-office employees. But with nearly 80% of organizations choosing hybridity in some form or fashion, there are a few things to consider before jumping on the hybrid workplace bandwagon.

1) Establish COVID-19 and other health safeguards.

Prior to COVID-19, 9 out of 10 employees reported going to work sick. Perhaps one of the most beneficial learnings to come from the pandemic is that public health and safety should be a community effort. Make sure to review your workplace policy on office health and well-being. A hybrid work model enables companies to continue to enforce social distancing requirements and limit building capacities while allowing employees who are feeling unwell to continue to contribute without the pressure of having to be onsite.

2) Make your virtual work policy crystal clear.

There are several ways to structure a hybrid workplace. You might choose a “flex-remote” model where employees are onsite set days during the week, or a “core hours” model where remote workers are available during specific hours of the day, or something in-between. The key to success with a virtual work policy is to set crystal clear expectations.

Your policy should address whether or not employees must come into the office, which days they are expected onsite, and if there is a minimum number of days they are required to be onsite per month. Keep in mind that the answer is likely not one size fits all and that team function and location are important considerations when determining when and where your teams work. Make sure to equip your leaders with the information and communicate expectations clearly to all employees.

3) Review your sick leave, PTO, and vacation policies.

After a year of staying home, it is natural for folks to want to vacation. You may want to review your vacation policy to ensure that you have ample operational coverage at all times. And while you’re at it, take a look at your PTO and sick leave policies as well. You may choose to adapt your PTO policies to the realities of the pandemic which could mean expanding what an employee can use PTO for, how it is accrued and how much may be used within a given period of time.

Sick leave is subject to specific state and federal employment laws, so take time to review your policies to make sure you are compliant with applicable laws. As guidance governing COVID-19 sick leave continues to evolve, it is important that you stay up to date with official guidance as it is released.

4) Make hybridity equitable.

Any time you have a division in the workforce, there is a significant risk of inequity. Studies have shown that face time has a positive effect on positioning an employee for promotion and other positive treatment. This may put those who choose to work remotely at an unfair disadvantage.

The solution is an intentional focus on mentorship and leadership of all members of the team regardless of work location. Leaders have had to develop this intentional style of leadership during the pandemic and will have to be even more deliberate about the way they develop the careers of the people working for them as we go forward in the age of the hybrid workplace.

If it is entered into with intention and focus, a hybrid workplace may be the perfect way to maintain some of the benefits we have learned exist in the remote work environment while capitalizing on the collaboration of an in-person atmosphere. Setting clear expectations up front and conducting a clear review of your policies and procedures to make sure they align with your new situation will set you up for success as your workforce returns to the office.

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